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On the roster: Boom: April saw jobs, wages surge - DNC tries to hold the line on debates - Trump talked with Putin about Mueller report - Senate GOP puts infrastructure in the slow lane - Lawyers, man…
BOOM: APRIL SAW JOBS, WAGES SURGE
Fox Business: “The U.S. economy added 263,000 jobs in April, soaring past Wall Street’s expectations for an increase of 185,000 jobs, while unemployment fell to the lowest rate since 1969. The unemployment rate dropped to 3.6 percent, beating analysts' expectations of 3.8 percent. The labor force participation rate, meanwhile, was little changed at 62.8 percent, from 63 percent the month prior. Average hourly earnings – which investors were closely watching for signs of inflation – rose by 6 cents to $27.77. Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by about 3.2 percent, slightly missing expectations of 3.3 percent. … The job creation in April marks the 119th month of straight gains. Over the past year, the economy has added an average monthly gain of 213,000 jobs.”
Working poor benefitting the most - NYT: “The recent gains are going to those who need it most. Over the past year, low-wage workers have experienced the fastest pay increases, a shift from earlier in the recovery, when wage growth was concentrated at the top. … But minimum wages are only part of the story. Ernie Tedeschi, an economist at Evercore ISI, estimates that the minimum-wage increases account for a quarter to a third of low-wage workers’ gains over the past three years. The rest is most likely a result of a tightening labor market that is forcing employers to raise pay even for workers at the bottom of the earnings ladder.”
THE RULEBOOK: ALWAYS THINKING
“The framers of the existing Confederation, fully aware of the danger to the Union from the separate possession of military forces by the States, have, in express terms, prohibited them from having either ships or troops, unless with the consent of Congress.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 25
TIME OUT: FAMILY BUSINESS
Nat Geo: “From the furry-footed Clydesdale to the spotted Appaloosa to the golden Akhal-Teke, around 600 horse breeds live among us. But in fact, there are only two living horse lineages—the domestic horse and the endangered Przewalski's horse of Mongolia. And due to intense breeding by humans, domestic horse genetic diversity is at an all-time low, according to the largest non-human genome study ever assembled. For instance, if you were to look at the DNA of the 20 male Thoroughbred horses that will compete in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, most if not all of them would have Y chromosomes that could be traced back to a single stallion born in the year 1700. His name was Darley Arabian, and 95 percent of all the male Thoroughbreds on Earth stem from his bloodline. … This trend is notable because low diversity leads to harmful genetic defects. Already, diseases such as night blindness and myopathy are affecting horses, experts say.”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 42.8 percent
Average disapproval: 53.4 percent
Net Score: -10.6 points
Change from one week ago: down 1.4 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 41% approve - 55% disapprove; CNN: 43% approve - 52% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 42% approve - 54% disapprove; WaPo/ABC News: 42% approve - 54% disapprove; Fox News: 45% approve - 51% disapprove.]
DNC TRIES TO HOLD THE LINE ON DEBATES
NYT: “…Candidates can gain access to the stage through grass-roots fund-raising, and in anticipation of a ‘historically large primary field,’ officials decided to split the event across two nights in late June, so that as many as 20 candidates could take part. But … when Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado announced his candidacy … the number of Democratic candidates in the field up to 21, and additional candidates may still join, making it a real possibility that some will be left off the debate stage. Only 17 candidates have so far qualified for the first debate, so cuts are not guaranteed. …Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the D.N.C., said that the party has no plans to raise the cap from 20 or revise its debate qualification criteria. ‘The D.N.C., along with its network partners, released the threshold for the first two debates nearly four months prior to the debates,’ Ms. Watson said. ‘It will not be revised now.’”
Booker is below the benchmark - WSJ: “New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said his 2020 presidential campaign remains short of the Democratic Party’s benchmark to qualify for next month’s debates, though he appeared to have met its polling requirement. A fundraising email sent Thursday by Mr. Booker’s campaign said he was ‘just 1,971 donors away’ from the 65,000 contributors required by the Democratic National Committee. But he has notched 1% or more in three qualified polls, which is an alternate way for a candidate to qualify for the debates if there are 20 or fewer candidates, his campaign said.”
Trump trails against Dem top tier - The Hill: “Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) leads President Trump by 10 points in a hypothetical general election matchup, according to a new CNN–SSRS poll. The survey released Thursday shows O’Rourke with support from 52 percent of registered voters, compared with Trump's 42 percent. Two percent of voters said they wouldn’t support either candidate, and 4 percent said they had no opinion. O'Rourke held the widest lead over Trump among other Democratic presidential candidates who were included in the potential matchup. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden tied for second place behind O'Rourke, with each leading Trump by 6 points. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) followed with a 4-point lead over Trump, while South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) led the president by 3 points.”
Rivals think Biden’s free-trade stance could be vulnerability - Politico: “Joe Biden's campaign kickoff was designed to showcase his blue-collar appeal: A rally at a Teamsters hall in Pittsburgh where he railed against Wall Street and demanded that a local employer ‘stop the union-busting.’ But one staple of Democratic stump speeches heard across the Rust Belt was missing: Middle-Class Joe, as he’s dubbed himself, didn't once mention trade. There's probably a reason for that. In the Senate, Biden voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement and permanent normal trade relations with China. As then-President Barack Obama's No. 2, he supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership. President Donald Trump’s team, rival Democratic campaigns and progressive activists believe that record is a major vulnerability — particularly with a protectionist in the White House — and they plan on making sure voters know about it.”
Nathan Gonzales: Lay off the Senate speculation - Roll Call: “Gloating about and reporting on candidate recruitment has become commonplace in the election process. But too often, the grading and grandstanding is premature — and even completely wrong. This cycle, Republicans are crowing after former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams declined to run for the Senate and freshman Rep. Cindy Axne decided to forgo a Senate run in Iowa. But their decisions don’t change the national dynamic (the GOP majority is still at risk) or the local dynamic (both of those races are still competitive). History tells us we have a long way to go before November 2020. … Neither party is going to gain nine Senate seats in 2020, but the 2014 cycle should make partisans and reporters more cautious about making broad declarations about the direction of the cycle or the impact of individual candidate announcements, especially more than a year before Election Day.”
TRUMP TALKED WITH PUTIN ABOUT MUELLER REPORT
Bloomberg: “President Donald Trump discussed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a more than hour-long phone conversation on Friday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. Sanders told reporters at the White House that the two leaders ‘very, very briefly’ discussed Mueller’s report, which detailed a Kremlin-directed scheme to interfere in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf. Mueller didn’t find evidence that Trump or any of his associates conspired with the Russian effort. The two leaders noted that Mueller’s investigation was now over and he had found no ‘collusion’ between Americans and the Russians, Sanders said – ‘which I’m pretty sure both leaders were well aware of well before the conversation took place,’ she added.”
Barr battle rages on - Politico: “Democrats are unwilling to impeach President Donald Trump for now, so they're throwing all their pent-up fury at the next best target: Attorney General William Barr. House Democrats have transformed the conservative GOP legal fixture into their all-purpose political foil. They’ve subpoenaed Barr, are preparing to hold him in contempt of Congress, want to battle him in court, have called for his resignation or impeachment, suggested fining him and are even musing about criminally referring him to his own Justice Department. ‘All options are on the table,’ said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.)… The all-of-the-above attack on Barr is an outlet for Democrats who are furious with Trump but unprepared to impeach the president himself. Their anger with the attorney general is mostly rooted in Barr’s handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, which laid out a methodical case that Trump attempted to obstruct his investigation repeatedly.”
Barr serving as a presidential shield - WaPo: “In Barr’s first three months in the job, his actions have served to protect Trump, though his motive is up for debate. Barr’s defenders note that the attorney general has long advocated strengthening the power of the executive branch, and the attorney general has told other lawyers that he is more interested in protecting the presidency than the man in the job. But critics say that Barr has emerged as the partisan champion Trump always wanted — one willing to defend the president’s most questionable conduct, put a Trumpian spin on the results of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and mislead Congress along the way. … Barr’s defenders say he is unbothered by the criticism.”
Trump doesn’t want McGahn to testify - Politico: “President Donald Trump said Thursday that he did not want former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify before Congress about allegations that the president obstructed justice. ‘Congress shouldn’t be looking anymore. This is all. It’s done,’ Trump told Fox News. ‘Nobody has ever done what I’ve done. I’ve given total transparency. It’s never happened before like this. They shouldn’t be looking anymore. It’s done.’ Trump said he allowed McGahn to speak to special counsel Robert Mueller and that was enough. ‘I’ve had him testifying already for 30 hours,’ he said. McGahn told Mueller that Trump told him to fire the special counsel, according to Mueller‘s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. But Attorney General William Barr said Mueller did not find sufficient evidence of obstruction.”
SENATE GOP PUTS INFRASTRUCTURE IN THE SLOW LANE
The Hill: “President Trump faces stiff opposition from Republicans in his desire for a massive infrastructure package. GOP lawmakers say the president’s grand proposal for a $2 trillion deal is too ambitious, and warn that they will oppose any measure that adds to the deficit. Many Republicans also say they are against raising taxes to pay for an infrastructure initiative, a stance that would make it extremely difficult to find pay-fors to finance a package even half the size of Trump’s desired amount. Congressional Republicans say they are worried about passing a reprise of former President Obama’s 2009 fiscal stimulus, which was devoted to ‘shovel ready’ infrastructure projects and ‘green’ energy production. That legislation added more than $800 billion to the debt and later became a focal point of GOP charges that Obama had blown up the deficit. … When asked how to pay for infrastructure in lieu of tax increases, GOP lawmakers say they need more time to study the issue.”
Republicans balk at NAFTA replacement - Politico: “Before President Donald Trump can get his new North American trade deal passed, he’s got to overcome stiff congressional opposition — from his own party. Senate Republicans say that unless the president removes steel and aluminum tariffs on U.S. allies, his NAFTA replacement isn’t going anywhere. And that’s assuming the president doesn’t follow through with his threat to impose new levies on foreign auto companies, many of which have factories in Southern GOP senators’ backyards. … The intraparty tension comes at an inflection point on Capitol Hill as the 2020 campaign ramps up and the appetite for legislating decreases. If the president wants his landmark trade agreement, he not only needs to cut a deal with House Democrats eager to strengthen labor laws, but he has to step way back from the protectionist tendencies that have unnerved the GOP.”
Dem party divisions cause Dreamer bill to get stuck - Politico
AUDIBLE: TEAM CLINTON BASHES BIDEN
“I don’t care how experienced you are. I don’t care how many good people you have around you. That is not a job for 80-year-olds.” – Democratic political strategist James Carville talking about Joe Biden in a podcast interview with David Axelrod.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This weekend Mr. Sunday will sit down with Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“If the House resorts to using this only effective tool to send their Sargent in Arms to arrest the AG or the President, do you actually believe they would allow themselves to be arrested? This would be completely unprecedented in our nation’s history! Yet this now appears to be where Nadler, etc. are headed. Congress has its knives out and gives no indication of backing down. Is either side going to back down?” – Alan Utter, Westlake Village, Calif.
[Ed. note: It’s not even clear that the sergeant at arms has any power outside of the Capitol, so that’s not going to happen. It is possible that the courts could eventually intervene on the side of Congress and compel administration officials to honor subpoenas. But we are a long, long way from that. I suspect that some accommodation will be found before we get to rupture of that kind.]
“I have noticed a large increase in the use of the phrase ‘our democracy’ especially by the Dems that are running for President, but by many others and none of the Fox hosts call them on it. I think that most know that we DON'T have a democracy, we have a Constitutional Republic. I know they would like to have a democracy, but that would take a new Constitution. Anyway if we did have Hillary would be President.” – Phil Filiatreau, Sherwood, Ark.
[Ed. note: Well, we do have a democratically elected government, Mr. Filiatreau. We live in a republic, yes. But we could also say that we live in a Madisonian or liberal democracy. The point in any construction is that government derives its authority from the will of the people, but that no matter what the people want, some things – restrictions on speech, sponsorship of a state religion, etc. – are off limits. Quibbling over such definitions during a brief interview or town hall would seem like a waste of time that could be better spent finding out about the candidate’s policies and character.]
“I think the reason people who responded in the poll (think of where it was taken) are for impeachment of Trump and disagree with everything Trump are in a highly Democratic state and area of New England…” – Lynn Anderson, Meredith, N.H.
[Ed. note: I think your confusion may arise from the fact that the poll in question was conducted by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. But that’s just where the school is located. The poll is conducted nationally among voters distributed proportionately across the regions of the country.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
WCSC: “Lowcountry lawyer George Sink is suing his son who has created a firm with a similar name as his father’s firm. The George Sink P.A. Injury Lawyers firm is suing George ‘Ted’ Sink Jr. and his firm George Sink II for trademark infringement, unfair competition and deceptive trade practices. Lawyers for Sink say his son created the George Sink II law firm weeks after he was terminated from his father’s law firm earlier this year. … A website for George Sink II states that the firm is not associated with George Sink P.A. Injury Lawyers or George Sink Sr.'...besides the founder of George Sink Law Firm, LLC being the son of and former employee of George Sink, Sr.’ George Sink, who is frequently seen in local television commercials, says his son went by his middle name, ‘Ted’ or ‘Teddy’ for most of his life, yet is now benefiting from his given name.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Once you’ve said ‘I’m in,’ it makes no difference that the meeting was a bust, that the intermediary brought no such goods.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on July 13, 2017.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.